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'You don't look sick:' Student claims he was made to write U of T exam

Last Updated Apr 22, 2016 at 9:57 am EDT

Joshua Grondin claims he was made to write an exam, despite having a doctor's note. Screengrab via Twitter.

A University of Toronto student claims a doctor’s note was not enough to miss an exam, and that it highlights a larger issue of access to mental health facilities on campus.

Joshua Grondin says he was enrolled in lecturer Sean Uppal’s Maths 223 course and had an average in the mid-70s. The night before his March 18 exam, he had two anxiety attacks. The morning of the exam, he saw an on-campus doctor and obtained a note.

When he presented the note to Uppal, Grondin said the lecturer told him, “You don’t look sick.”

“The doctor’s office and [Uppal’s] office are in the same building,” Grondin told CityNews, but he said Uppal wouldn’t accept the note.

“He told me, since it wasn’t a physical illness, I could physically be present in the room.”

He said he was told he could either take a zero in the exam, or write it. Grondin chose to write it, scored 23 per cent, and ultimately, withdrew from the course.

University spokesperson Althea Blackburn-Evans said Uppal would not be available for an interview.

However, Blackburn-Evans said, “I can confirm that there has been no case in this course where a student presented a note prior to an exam and was made to write it.”

When asked if the student would have been given the option of taking a zero or writing the exam, Blackburn-Evans said the school could not discuss details about specific students or cases.

Grondin said other professors have been more understanding, but he has run into other problems at the school.

“I’ve tried to make doctor’s appointments on campus. I’ve had some doctors cancel on me. Others, there’s a two-month waitlist,” Grondin said.

Blackburn-Evans said wait times do vary, but could not confirm the length of the waitlist.

Grondin isn’t alone in his wait for services.

Earlier this month, psychologist Dr. Oren Amitay told CityNews reporter Shauna Hunt that demand for services is higher than the supply.

“There’s certainly not enough resources for students or anyone else in this society,” Dr. Amitay said.

“This is such a transitional time. Students are going from children or adolescents to adults. They have all these stressors,” he added.

Sarah Jenkins, a 19-year-old Ryerson student, told Hunt that “unless you’re suicidal … you’re not top of the waitlist. You’re not going to see anybody for months at a time.”

Jenkins had an even longer wait than Grondin: she had to wait four months.

Both Jenkins and Grondin said that while universities advertise their mental health services around campus, there simply aren’t enough doctors to meet student needs.

That’s the reason why Grondin tweeted about his experience.

“I went public with it because I’m sick of seeing the way students are affected by all of this,” Grondin said.

“I know two people who committed suicide because of school stress, and several others who have tried … I’ve tried to access services, and they gave me a bunch of pamphlets about how yoga and meditation can help,” he continued.

Students are paying for mental and physical health services with their student fees and Grondin said the help is only there for students with physical injuries.

“When it comes to dealing with mental illness, they pass you off from one person to the next.”